Friday, February 15, 2008

Clintonian Self-Defeat

It is somewhat sickening to have to spend so much time discussing the Clintons, but, as they have done now for many years, they make it a necessity. Is it possible that either Barack Obama or John McCain will deliver us from this?

Let me turn to George Will and Maureen Dowd for help today in bearing this aweful burden.

In "Howlers, Whoops and Miracles" (Washington Post, Feb. 14, 2008), Will draws attentions to the Clintons' extraordinary capacity for self-inflation and audacious lies.

With metronomic regularity -- the rhythm may arise from some strangely shared metabolic urge, which may explain the mystery of their marriage -- the Clintons say things that remind voters of the aesthetic reason for recoiling from them. Aesthetic considerations even cause many hope, against three decades of evidence, that Democrats can be sufficiently sensible to nominate Barack Obama, even though Hillary Clinton would be more vulnerable to John McCain.

Though, as we all know and all too well, Bill Clinton is "an overflowing caldron of narcissism and solipsism," Hillary continually reiterates, if only by implication, that she is offering us "two for the price of one" if she is elected president. In Virginia this past Sunday, in an apparent attempt to neutralize Obama's rhetorical appeal and minimize the importance of her own notorious deficiency in this, Hillary told an audience that, as Will puts it, "she is constantly being urged to unleash her inner Pericles." Are you ready for this?

People say to me all the time, 'You're so specific. . . . Why don't you just come and, you know, really just give us one of those great rhetorical flourishes and then, you know, get everybody all whooped up?'

When she is not flattering herself in ways that persuade only the most willfully gullible, she is belching forth political poison intended to bare knuckle her way back into the White House, but which may in the end be the petard on which she hoists herself. Maureen Dowd, a delightfully unsympathetic sister, says "her pitch is the color of pitch."

In "Darkness and Light" (NYT, February 6, 2008), Dowd says that Hillary's argument against Obama is that only she is tough enough to stand against the Republican hate machine and overcome in the November election. “Obambi will fold at the first punch from the right.”

Better the devil you know than the diffident debutante you don’t. Better to go with the Clintons, with all their dysfunction and chaos — the same kind that fueled the Republican hate machine — than to risk the chance that Obama would be mauled like a chew toy in the general election. Better to blow off all the inspiration and the young voters, the independents and the Republicans that Obama is attracting than to take a chance on something as ephemeral as hope. Now that’s Cheney-level paranoia.

Obama is himself being toughened in the course of this campaign by the unmatched toughening agent herself. What doesn't kill him will make him stronger. Teh big question for Obama, she says, is, "Can he go from laconic to iconic to bionic? Will he have the muscle to take on the opposition, from Billary (which she later calls 'the Clinton attack machine...not invincible, but breathing fire') to the Republican hate machine to the terrorists overseas?"

American presidential campaigns are long and grueling, and this serves a useful public purpose. As Dowd intimates, Obama will need that battle honed toughness for dealing with the foreign enemies. Perhaps confronting the heavily bounded evil of his Clinton opponants will sensitize him to the far more unrestrained evil of national enemies lurking in Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela whose savage breasts are unmoved by his "hymn that will heal this nation and repair the world" and whose evil he does not seem to take quite qeriously.

No comments: